New digital heritage trail brings Skipton’s past to life

    In time for half-term, Skipton library has launched a new digital heritage trail to bring the town’s past to life by using modern technology and historic photographs.


    The Skipton High Street Heritage trail, available on the What Was Here app, uses a selection of photos from Skipton library’s Rowley Ellwood collection. Users can access the app when out and about to check ‘what was here’ at any given location.

    The idea was inspired by Skipton library’s Then and Now project, which saw the library working with a local group attending North Yorkshire Adult Learning ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, and digital artist Rob Freeman, to manipulate historic photos which highlighted particular buildings and views from the town centre.

    The project is a partnership with East Riding Archives, which created the free app to enable users to see the photos that are relevant to where they are standing. The partnership has meant that the library has been able to add images from its own collection to develop the trail, allowing people from this region to enjoy the “time-travelling” experience of the app.

    The trail will launch on Monday, October 26, at the start of the half-term school holiday.

    The Then and Now artwork completed by the ESOL group, which included a number of Syrian refugee families, will also go on public display at Skipton library from 26 October.

    The group enjoyed learning about the history of their town and connecting with its past and gained new skills using the free photo-editing software available on the library’s public PCs. The exhibition was planned for earlier in the year, but was postponed due to the lockdown.

    East Riding of Yorkshire Council Archivist and app project creator Sam Bartle said: “The What Was Here app enables users to do a self-directed exploration of the local area and see how it used to look back through time – a window on the past.”

    North Yorkshire County Councillor Greg White, Executive Member for Libraries, said: “The What Was Here app really brings history to life.

    “Our library service is always looking for innovative partnerships and it is fantastic that East Riding have shared their expertise and their brilliant platform with us.

    “I’m looking forward to seeing more historic images from North Yorkshire on there so people from across the county can connect past with present.”

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